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2 (14) Universal Upper Air Sounding System. World Meteorological Organization WMO Technical Conference on Meteorological and Evironmental Instruments and Methods of Observation – TECO 2005. What is a Universal Upper Air System?. Flies sondes from any qualified manufacturer

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2 (14) Universal Upper Air Sounding System

World Meteorological OrganizationWMO Technical Conference on Meteorological and Evironmental Instruments and Methods of Observation – TECO 2005

what is a universal upper air system
What is a Universal Upper Air System?
  • Flies sondes from any qualified manufacturer
  • Operates in multiple modes (RDF/GPS)
  • Complies with WMO and national reporting requirements

Photo courtesy of NOAA Archive


Universal System


Optical Theodolite

Photo courtesy of NOAA Archive


Universal System


SCR-658 Manual Radiotheodolite

Photo courtesy of NOAA Archive


Universal System: 1950s

ART-1 and ART-2 Automatic Radiotheodolites

Photos courtesy of NOAA Archive

1990 gps revolution
1990: GPS Revolution
  • Rapidly dominates synoptic market by offering high accuracy and ease of use
  • High cost of disposables becomes unsustainable for many operators - leading to darkened sites

Image courtesy of USAF Research Lab

In 2000 the Radiotheodolite returns as part of the NWS Radiosonde Replacement System

Photo: InterMet Systems

trs telemetry receiving system
TRS: Telemetry Receiving System
  • Multi-Sonde Compatible
  • Dual-Mode (GPS / RDF)
  • Digital Architecture
  • All Environment
  • High Gain / Long Range
  • Easy to Operate

Photo: InterMet Systems

2002 imet 1500
2002: iMet-1500
  • TRS technology in a flexible format
  • Digital receiver with tunable bandwidth
  • Multi-sonde compatible
  • Multi-mode GPS/RDF
  • Military or Synoptic

Photo: InterMet Systems

2004 imet 1700
2004: iMet-1700
  • TRS technology at a lower cost
  • Fixed site installations
  • Fewer moving parts, reduced maintenance
  • Multi-sonde compatible
  • Multi-mode GPS/RDF

Photo: InterMet Systems

operational factors favor 403 mhz gps

Maintenance free

Accurate winds in all conditions

Release and forget operations


Complex hardware

Inaccurate winds at low elevation angles

Training and experience required

Operational factors favor 403 MHz GPS:
  • When properly integrated, PTU is a function of the radiosonde, and should be independent of the wind finding methodology
tanzania evaluation
Tanzania Evaluation
  • In October 2004, a team lead by Dr. John Nash from the Met Office evaluated an iMet-1500 installation on behalf of the WMO.
    • More training was required for a staff that had not conducted synoptic flights for 10 years
    • Identified important integration issues
    • RDF Wind accuracy was deemed acceptable for operational use in the Tropics
cost factors favor universal rdf
Low cost disposable

Multiple vendors for sonde reorders

Cost factors favor Universal RDF:

Estimated Savings from Universal RDF System:

universal compatibility
The Signal Processor (decoder) is the key to multi-sonde use

Other Issues:


Frequency selection

Transfer of calibration coefficients

Solar correction

Signal Processor

Universal Compatibility:
meteorological issues
Meteorological Issues:
  • Are RDF winds accurate enough for tropical locations with a low incidence of low angle tracking?
  • Is a competitive market for annual sonde reorders compatible with providing consistent PTU time series data?
  • There is a place for Universal RDF Systems in the GUAN
  • Additional work needs to be done on data quality and the potential impact of annual sonde changes

Photo courtesy of NOAA Archive